Many bodybuilders start to panic when they are dieting and progress either stalls in the gym, or “God forbid”, starts to back slide. It’s what often times either keeps people from participating in physique sports, or is the reason they pull the plug on a prep that might actually be going great. I touched on this a few years ago in a video and it can be found on the Team 3DMJ YouTube channel using the link below. Here are a few things to think about when you are dieting hard and progress starts to go the wrong direction.
If 50% Or More Of Your Program Is Progressing, That’s A Big Win
We want to plan for progress. Usually in the form of increased repetitions, or loads over time, even during competition prep. However, just because a few exercises are not progressing does not mean that you are not. If 50% of your program is progressing as planned, 25% is stagnant, and then even if 25% starts to back slide a little, on the whole you are progressing. Put it into perspective, you’ve actually achieved the Holy Grail of progression while in a caloric deficit!
If Your Bodyweight Is Falling Faster Than Your Lifts, You Are Actually Progressing
In powerlifting we use something called a Wilks Score. This is basically a formula that accounts for body weight, age, sex, and weight lifted and then assigns a score that is used to figure placings between weight classes. Wilks calculators are all over the internet and with a quick Google search you can find one in seconds. As an example, I will use myself:
At a bodyweight of 176.4lbs my 3 best competition lifts are:
Plugging these lifts into a Wilk Calculator my Score is 401.35. As I mentioned before it’s quite natural to have the amount of weight you can lift on any given lift go down as you lose bodyweight. This is mostly due to the change in leverages that I mention in the video series (link found down below). However, if you are holding on to ~95% of your strength, you are actually progressing. As I cut down from 176.4lbs down to 162.8lbs, my 3 best competition lifts were:
When I plug these lifts into a Wilks Calculator my score actually goes up from 401.35 to 410.66. So even though my lifts are down, pound for pound I am actually stronger and have therefore actually progressed in my training. A BIG win. If your training program looks similar to this across the board, all exercises, then you have in essence done a magnificent job of progressing even though the absolute numbers may say otherwise. In bodybuilding, while the load on the bar isn’t as important, changes in strength can be useful markers for assessing how much muscle you are holding onto since muscle size contributes to strength. So, if you are progressing in any way, like your relative strength increasing despite a drop in absolute strength, more than likely your hard earned muscle is still present!